Preview | Magicka Hands-On
Left 4 Magic…
Format: PC/Xbox 360 | Genre: Action Adventure | Publisher: Paradox Interactive | Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios | ETA: Q1 2011
Marco Fiori conjures up a look at the arcane joys of the upcoming MAGICKA.
A GAME with the word magic in the title? Surely that means a generic fantasy romp chock full of dungeons, dragons and dullness? Wrong.
Magicka is the latest game from Arrowhead Game Studios – a sarcastic exploration of what the RPG genre means after twenty years of exhaustion and stagnation. Set against a Norse mythology backbone – a source material very rarely explored in video games – Magicka at first glance, looks like your usual run and kill dungeon crawler. Thankfully nothing could be further from the truth with the reality being a complex and fulfilling game that has you using your brain from beginning to end.
Taking place in a land filled with trolls, tunnels and tunics, Magicka pulls no punches throwing the usual lashings of fantasy at you. Taking control of the distant cousin of Vivi from Final Fantasy, you prance around the game’s luscious setting with up to three other pals. Before you loot grinders get overexcited, you should be made aware that this isn’t Torchlight or Titan Quest. Magicka is that little bit different – a breath of fresh air if you will.
First up is the humour that litters the game. Whenever you’re not killing, you’re clicking your way through traditional villages that make up the game’s filler. However, while they’re populated with the gormless peasants you’ve come to expect from RPG 101, every character is in reality armed with a layer of wit that provides Magicka with its unique subversive quality.
Take Vlad, the provider of quests, as an early example. He looks like a vampire and speaks like a creature of the night, yet he constantly fights against the stereotype proclaiming that he isn’t one. Another random example sees you stroll into a village as everyone you talk to asks you why you’re wearing a wash cloth.
Sure, out of context it doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, but hearing the quips coming quick and fast in-game is a wonderful thing. Giving a helping hand is the fact, at the moment at least, that Magicka is voice-acted in Swedish. At first it’s odd playing a game that’s not in your native tongue, yet with so much silliness in the game, it’s apparent that the English language wouldn’t have done it justice.
Swedish is generally a more upbeat sounding language and it complements the tone that Magicka tries to convey. For those worried about comprehension, there are English subtitles in case your Swedish is rusty and the overall story arc is given the usual English pomp and circumstance with a bit of English voice acting.
However, while humour’s a wonderful thing to have in a game, it’s of little use if there’s not a decent game available as well. Potential fans can rest easy because in its current state, Magicka looks to be a clever concept that’s been wonderfully realised.
Your mini-magician is a master of the world and able to control eight elements (think fire, earth, water, etc.). You see, Magicka is all about experimentation – that constant drive to find new combinations. The aim is to inflict the most amount of damage on your enemies in the shortest time possible.
It really is all about dishing out those arcane-electro-fire beams.
Perhaps the easiest way to explain Magicka is to look at it as a fantasy extension of the element system that underpins the Pokémon series. Water beats fire, electricity trumps water, shield and earth creates rocky barrier. “Wait, what?” you say? Pikachu never managed that.
Magicka’s enjoyment lies with thinking outside the box. Using the hotkeys assigned to each element, you intuitively build up your combo of elements before casting it on your enemies / self. While there are set spells that have beneficial effects (Haste, Revive), it’s acting like a twelve year old in science class that provides the most satisfying results.
That childish sense of “what will happen if I put this with this,” is immensely rewarding. Everyone will quickly find their favourites, (arcane and electric seem be a good pair), but it’s then combining those combinations with your companions’ combinations to see what the effect is. This is co-op gaming at its best.
Wet them with an ice ray; throw some electric at them for critical damage. With bosses littered along the way, you’ll need to use your wits constantly, especially when you come up against a foe who instantly counters your spell of choice. It’s by no means an easy game and with spells flying around, you’ll often find yourself teleported back to a previous checkpoint following your untimely demise.
With a murky Q1 2011 release date scheduled, Magicka is still a little way off. For those who are after level-based progression and oodles of loot, you’ll likely look elsewhere. For the rest of us – if you’re after something that’s that little bit different and have an open mind to gameplay, Magicka is shaping up to be one fantastic little game.